Republicans and Climate Change. Liberal, why so smug?

Laura Bush on White House lawn. Photo by Douglas Friedman.

Laura Bush on White House lawn. Photo by Douglas Friedman. Photo of photo taken by Peterson at George W Bush Presidential Library.

If like me you live in the USA, you know that any substantial policy initiative to address global warming has to be something that congressional Republicans support. In fact, they will have to champion such legislation. My friends who are liberals and progressives laugh at me when I say this or else laugh at conservatives for being climate skeptics. But this is no laughing matter, and progressives who are concerned about climate change cannot dismiss conservatives. Also mocking them is counterproductive, and in my eyes, a violent dehumanizing act that serves to deflect responsibility about the work we must do, namely figure out how to work together.

The reality is that many Republican voters are concerned about climate change regardless that lawmakers are not doing anything about it. Much like how “gay marriage” has become a non-issue for Republicans since the recent Supreme Court rulings, similarly I believe conservative lawmakers are looking for a way out of the corner they painted themselves into regarding climate change. Once they are ready to act, likely their approaches will be different from progressives.

According to a recent segment from Yale Climate Connections,

 “There’s an unfair narrative that only liberals seem to care about having clean air and clean water. I’d argue that we all do, but we have different ways of approaching the issue.”


That’s James Dozier, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions. He says conservatives tend to prefer free market rather than regulatory solutions, but they still believe energy and environmental issues are important.

While lots of progressives demonstrate a marked distrust towards corporations and capitalism, conservatives prefer market driven solutions. For my part I am a pragmatist. I want to see us radically reduce our pollution. This is no easy task and requires a dispelling of myths about renewable energy.

In his recent op-ed for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Glen Retief (full disclosure: my adorable husband) refocused the discussion of climate denial and opened up the lens to include liberals along with conservatives. After pointing out that conservatives have been in denial about climate change, he turns to liberals and the green energy myths they believe.

Or take renewables. Liberals’ wishful thinking about windmills and solar panels seems to rival conservatives’ rose-tinted views of carbon.

Glen Retief on a recent cross-country Amtrak train trip

Glen Retief on a recent cross-country Amtrak train trip

Thus Josh Fox, director of the controversial anti-fracking documentary “Gasland,” states, “I think the world is in the middle of a huge transition … to renewable energy.” Greenpeace argues, “Renewable energy is viable, reliable and ready to go” and can “meet all our energy needs in a safe and reliable way.”

Yet when we exclude biofuels and hydroelectric, both of which create serious environmental problems of their own, the International Energy Agency estimates that only 1.3 percent of the world’s primary energy supply in 2013 came from renewables. The same authoritative studies that illustrate human-caused climate change also implicitly debunk liberals’ fantasies of a renewables-only world. For example, Chapter 4 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report discusses a mixture of energy changes, all of which will likely be needed to accomplish emissions reductions: energy efficiency, natural gas, nuclear power, renewable energy, and carbon capture and storage.

We live in an age we where need to rise above partisanship and address our climate crisis with dispassionate, honest, and pragmatic efforts and policies. Yes conservatives are concerned about the economy, a worthy concern for sure. Progressives are concerned with justice issues, also worthy and essential for our climate action discussions. The two of these concerns merge beautifully with the proposal put forward by Citizens Climate Lobby. Glen explains:

…the most effective climate-change solutions marry liberal and conservative thought. Under carbon fee and dividend, for example, the government would charge carbon-emitters a fee to reflect the damage that fossil fuels do to both the environment and to human health. This would give them a huge, market-driven incentive to reduce their carbon emissions.

The fee would be refunded to households so as to not grow the size of government. This would also help the poor.

And there is movement among House Republicans. Last year a group of Republican legislators signed onto the Gibson Resolution, which outlines a conservative approach to address climate change. There is work ahead no doubt. Lobbying efforts need to increase. If you want to move beyond Facebook posting activism and engage in the discussion with lawmakers, check out the Citizens Climate Lobby proposal and seek out (or start) a local chapter.